Daniel: Chapter 4
Daniel 4:1-37 provides the view of the Lord working among the Gentiles to bring them into His saving grace. The chapter records the second dream of King Nebuchadnezzar and brings into sharp focus the sovereignty of God among man’s activities. The Lord is sovereign over all nations and individuals, as shown in Daniel 2:1-49, which provides the interpretation of the king’s first dream. The Lord revealed to both Jews and Gentiles the march of Gentile nations in time, their ultimate destruction, and the establishment of the millennial reign of Christ. God works in a man’s life to bring him to a full recognition that it is God, and not man, who establishes a man’s way. God sets up kingdoms and throws them down with both judgment and grace.
The first three verses in Daniel 4 is the greeting from King Nebuchadnezzar to all mankind, through all of the following centuries. A formerly brutal but now contrite man, the king provides a witness to all on the transformation that takes place in a person's life when they come into a full relationship with the Lord in the life. His letter demonstrates that God can change the heart of any person who desires to know and accept God in his life. When the first three chapters in the book of Daniel are examined from the perspective of King Nebuchadnezzar’s progression to becoming a God-fearing man, we see the following:
- In Daniel 1:1-21, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (who were captives from the first campaign against Jerusalem) are all recognized before the king to be ten times better than all of his wisest men, and Daniel was brought into favor with those who oversaw his training by the Lord, Daniel 1:9.
- In Daniel 2:1-49, after receiving from Daniel the details and interpretation of the dream of the king, King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God Daniel worshiped was “a” God of gods, and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, Daniel 2:47. He elevated the God of Daniel from just a curious interest to the same level of the other gods he worshiped.
- Daniel 3:1-30 does not show the king’s recognition of the need to inquire and submit to the fourth person he saw in the fire. Instead, it shows the king's attempt to appease God through his own power and efforts through the decree he made for his entire kingdom. He decreed that anyone and their dwelling would be destroyed if they were to say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3:29-30. This is not the mark of a man that has submitted to God, Isaiah 57:15. However, in Daniel 4, we see this transformation, just like it is described by Paul in Romans 12:1-3. King Nebuchadnezzar’s benediction reveals his submissive spirit, Daniel 4:34-37. , after witnessing the miraculous intervention by God to preserve Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace, the king acknowledged that there was no other god who could deliver in the way that their God had done, Daniel 3:28-29.
- Finally, as is shown below, in Daniel 4:1-37 the king is humbled, and brought to the point where he exhibits a contrite heart. In the end of the chapter, he offers praise to God.
Daniel 3:1-30 does not show the king’s recognition of the need to inquire and submit to the fourth person he saw in the fire. Instead, it shows the king's attempt to appease God through his own power and efforts through the decree he made for his entire kingdom. He decreed that anyone and their dwelling would be destroyed if they were to say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3:29-30. This is not the mark of a man that has submitted to God, Isaiah 57:15. However, in Daniel 4:1-37, we see this transformation, just like it is described by Paul in Romans 12:1-3. King Nebuchadnezzar’s benediction reveals his submissive spirit, Daniel 4:34-37.
The evidence of the king’s conversion was his lifting up his eyes to heaven. No longer was he relying on his own strength, but on God for his deliverance. He spent much time in praise as well. Paul also referenced the state of a person relative to God, and the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life in 1Corinthians 12:2-3. Not only had God restored King Nebuchadnezzar to his throne, but God in His graciousness, added excellent majesty to the king, so that his realm increased more than at the beginning of the fulfillment of the dream. This is the last of the writing of the king in the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is not about King Nebuchadnezzar, his life and death, but about the sovereignty of God over man’s activities.
Daniel 4:1 is the beginning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s letter to his entire realm. This is not a decree as in previous occasions when attempting to address himself to the God of Daniel and of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Rather, this is a personal note from a changed man who is introducing to his kingdom the God he now worships. Daniel 4:1 is the king's greeting and testimony to the world that is in direct contrast with the king’s decree in Daniel 3:29.
In Daniel 4:2-3, the king demonstrates the change in his life and acknowledges the Lord’s work in his life, and the greatness of the Lord’s dominion. One can only wonder if the king recalled the events in Daniel 2:42-45 concerning the formation of God’s eternal kingdom at the end of the Gentile era, as revealed in the king’s dream of the great image, as he penned these words.
In Daniel 4:4-7, the king describes the events that led up to his second dream. He was resting, and flourishing in his palace when the dream came to him. Unlike the first dream he had, which was very unsettling and he had forgotten the details, Daniel 2:1-3, on this occasion he was able to remember the dream. He thought on the dream, but as with the first dream, the visions he had troubled him, Daniel 2:1. The king called for all the wise men to make known to him the interpretation of the dream. It is very curious why he did not call on the one man he knew would be able to provide him the interpretation. On this occasion, the king told the wise men the dream, which was quite similar to the situation with Pharaoh in Genesis 41:1-36. However, this dream of King Nebuchadnezzar had nothing to do with future Gentile kingdoms as before, it was a warning to him.
As before, the king was unable to receive any satisfaction from his wise men, so he called for Daniel, Daniel 4:8-12. This time he calls him both by his Hebrew name and his Babylonian name Belteshazzar (meaning Bel protect his life, the name of the king’s favorite god Marduk). He now recognizes that the Spirit of the Holy God was in Daniel, and makes the distinction against his other false gods. As the king begins to describe his dream, he details the first part of the dream. He witnessed a tree of in the midst of the earth, with great height, strength, and visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were lovely, provided abundant fruit for food and shelter to all, which is a stunning validation of what the Lord had revealed to him in Daniel 2:36-38, where he was the head of gold, the greatest of all the succeeding Gentile nations.
As the king received the vision, he interpreted what he saw from his pagan understanding, in that he saw a watcher and a holy one who came down from heaven, Daniel 4:13. The king did not have the knowledge, wisdom or spiritual understanding that was part of the Jewish culture. God had revealed Himself to the nation of Israel, Deuteronomy 5:22-24, which no other nation on earth ever experienced. Much later in time, Paul revealed that the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because thay are spiritually discerned, 1Corinthians 2:14.
The king did not have the knowledge, wisdom, or spiritual understanding that was part of the Jewish culture and awareness of the one, true God, and the angels He uses. The king used terms that he understood from his pagan religion. What the king saw was an angel sent by the most high God, Genesis 14:18-22, a term the king used himself, Daniel 3:26. Later, when Daniel provides the interpretation of the dream, he also attributes it all as a decree of the most High, thereby correcting the king's understanding, Daniel 4:24.
As the king continued describing his vision in his terms, Daniel 4:14-15, the king heard in his dream the watchers saying to chop down the tree, cut off the branches, scatter the fruit, and no longer shelter the beasts of the earth. The watcher further commanded that the stump should be bound with iron and bronze bands.
Though the succeeding kingdoms to King Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom were identified with these metals, the dream was directed to the king himself. It is noteworthy that iron is referred to in scripture as a tool to describe the rule of the Lord in His millennial reign, Psalms 2:7-11. This may refer to the Lord’s command in this matter, as Daniel later states. The second metal, brass, is used in scripture as a symbol of judgment, such as the brazen alter in the temple. This is where sin was judged, and the site of the vision Ezekiel had as King Nebuchadnezzar was engaged in his final military campaign against Israel. In Ezekiel's vision, the Lord commanded His angels to mark those who were sorrowful for the abominations that had been done in the city of Jerusalem, then, beginning at the temple, the angels were to slay all who did not have the mark on them, Ezekiel 9:1-11. The king also reported that he heard the watcher say that the grass is to be wet with dew for grazing, and that he would graze with the beasts.
During the time he would be grazing the in the field, the heart of the king will be changed to that of a beast, Daniel 4:16. The time frame of this judgment was determined to be seven years. From the king's perspective, The source of the decree against him were the watchers, at the demand of the holy ones, Daniel 4:17. This implies that there is a governmental structure in heavenly places, as there are governments on earth. It is made clear to the king that the intent of this decree is for those on earth to know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men. God sets whomever He wills as rulers, even the basest of men, over kingdoms, Daniel 2:20-21, Daniel 2:20-21.
King Nebuchadnezzar asks Belteshazzar (addressing him from the point of view as a member of his advisors), for the interpretation. He also declares the inability of his other wise men to privide the king with the interpretation, Daniel 4:18. The king still recognizes the difference of the God Daniel serves, but only as superior to other gods he worships. The purpose of the decree was to make the king know there is only one God.
In Daniel 4:19, Daniel expresses great concern for the welfare of the king based on what he has heard of the dream. As a result, he is reluctant in telling the interpretation without care and concern. It appears that Daniel had a great relationship or admiration for the king. Daniel wished the dream and interpretation on the king’s haters and enemies.
The dream’s detail covered the current conditions of King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, Daniel 4:20-22. The greatness of the tree and all its attributes are directly associated with the greatness of Babylon’s kingdom. The tree’s abundance of leaves and fruit provided for all subsistence and shelter that were in the kingdom of Babylon. The dream was about King Nebuchadnezzar. He was the one who had become strong, and all of his greatness grew up to heaven and covered the then known earth
Daniel informed the king of God’s impending judgment upon him. Daniel reiterated the dream the king revealed to him, Daniel 4:23. Then Daniel attributed the source of the dream to the most high God, which was His decree that was delivered to the king, Daniel 4:24-26. The king will dwell with the beasts of the field, the judgment will last seven years, and then the king will know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomsoever He wills. Afterwards, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom will be restored to him when he makes this confession.
Daniel gave the king counsel to lengthen the days before this judgment would fall on him. Daniel did not say the king would avoid the judgment, just that it would be delayed, Daniel 4:27. He told the king to not live in sin, but righteousness, not to continue in his iniquity, but show mercy to the poor. In other words, Daniel had been sharing God and His ways to the king, so that he had an understanding of God's requirement of the Lord for His people, to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, Micah 6:8.
In Daniel 4:28-33, the fulfillment of the dream occurs as a result of pride welling up within the king. As written in Ecclesiastes 8:11, once the occasion of sin had occurred, the imputation of the judgment was immediate. After a year passed, everything in the king’s vision came to fruition, Daniel 4:29. King Nebuchadnezzar expressed his pride and admiration of his kingdom, attributing it as a result of his own might and power, for the honor of his majesty, Daniel 4:30. This is similar to the pride of Lucifer and his bold declarations, Isaiah 14:13-14. The king had not quite finished verbalizing his thought when a voice from heaven spoke, that the kingdom is departed from him right then and there, Daniel 4:31-33. At this time, all of the details in the vision given to the king are repeated, just as the execution of his judgment is to take place. That very hour the judgment was manifest.
A similar pattern of delay from when the word of the Lord was revealed to an individual or group, and the commencement of the judgment is evident throughout the scriptures. The Lord gave 120 years before the flood, Genesis 6:3, 1 Peter 3:20. The two books (among others) in the Bible that declare judgment upon Nineveh, Jonah and Nahum 1:1-15, show that the Lord's judgment would occur, but because of their repentance and brokenness before the Lord upon hearing the prophesy through Jonah, the execution of the judgment was delayed, Jonah 3:5-10. It was over a 100 years later when Nahum was called upon by the Lord to again prophesy against the city after it had returned to its wicked ways, and then it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Also, 40 years elapsed after Israel rejected Christ before the destruction by Titus. There may also be a period of time between the rapture of the church and the commencement of the seven years of tribulation. By Daniel 4:33, the prophesy to King Nebuchadnezzar is fulfilled. There are several passages in scripture that reveal the Lord's hatred toward a man's prideful heart, such as Proverbs 6:16-19, Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 8:13, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 11:2, and James 4:6.
In Daniel 4:34-35, the narrative is now written by King Nebuchadnezzar. The king lifted up his eyes to heaven, in acknowledgement of God. It was then his understanding returned to him. The king blessed the most High, and praised and honored Him that lives forever, whose dominion is everlasting and His kingdom is from generation to generation.
- The king looked up to the Lord and acknowledged His sovereignty, similar to Daniel 4:3
- Romans 4:3 … Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness
- Romans 10:8-11 …Confess and believe in God
- Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that all the inhabitants of earth are the Lord’s.
King Nebuchadnezzar wrote that at the same time he was healed, that all returned to him as God promised, which included, Daniel 4:36 :
- The glory of his kingdom
- His honor and brightness returned
- His counsellors and lords sought for him
- He was established in his kingdom
- Excellent majesty was added to him
- Restoration with excellent majesty
- Job received double of what he had prior to his testing, Job 42:10-13
King Nebuchadnezzar ends his decree with praise and honor to the King of heaven, Daniel 4:37. The king acknowledges that God’s works are truth, and those who walk in pride, He is able to abase. This all is summarized by humility, Proverbs 3:33-34 …Grace to the humble.